May 4, 2009
THE Family Court has allowed a 17-year-old girl to have her breasts removed so she can be more like a boy.
The teenager, code-named “Alex”, was on court-ordered hormone medication from the age of 13 to prevent menstruation and breast development. She returned to the court in December 2007 asking for a double mastectomy to make it easier for her to pass as a boy.
The Chief Justice of the Family Court, Diana Bryant, decided it was in the teenager’s best interests to have the surgery immediately rather than wait until turning 18.
The teenager had been diagnosed with “gender identity dysphoria”, a psychological condition in which a person has the normal physical characteristics of one sex but longs to be the opposite sex.
Justice Bryant told The Age: “In the end, it wasn’t a particularly difficult issue because the only real issue was, ‘Would he (Alex) have it at 17 or once he’s 18?’ Then, he doesn’t need permission.
“So the issue was, ‘Was there any likelihood he would change his mind in the meantime, and was it in his best interests to have it at that time?’
“Overwhelmingly, the evidence was that it was in his interests. And I made that order. I wanted to make it quickly so that he could have the operation straightaway.”
But ethicist Nick Tonti-Filippini said mainstream medicine did not recognise hormone treatments and surgery as treatment for gender dysphoria. He said it was a psychiatric disorder qualifying under American guidelines as a psychosis because “it’s a belief out of accordance with reality”.
“What you are trying to do is make a biological reality correspond to that false belief.”
The Chief Justice said Alex had not had any urgent plans to proceed with further surgery when he turned 18. She did not make Alex wait for the mastectomies until of age because the teenager had been living as a boy since the age of 13.
Comment from Leslie
Am not sure what to think of this…it certainly raises some social/political issues. Anyone else want to weigh in?